LOCAC to Address Local Homeless Situation

Written by Theresa-Marie Wilson

Theresa-Maria Wilson has been a journalist covering the North Coast and South County area for over 20 years. She is also the founder of Cat Noir CC and is currently working on a novel.

October 8, 2020

Community members have expressed concerns and complaints surrounding the homeless population in Los Osos, particularly in the area around the library at what is referred to as Midtown site where an estimated dozen people are camping. There have been multiple reports of human waste, syringes, public safety issues, and possible fire threats in the area. Additionally, the number of people living in vehicles on the adjacent Palisades Ave. has also increased. 

“I want to emphasize that this issue is of concern in every community of the county,” said District Two Supervisor Bruce Gibson during a LOCAC meeting held in September. He added that the size of the problem has “gotten to a point now where I think we should be able to mobilize more resources than we have in the past. I know none of this is going to happen as quickly as a lot of people would like.”

The Los Osos Community Advisory Committee is looking to create a committee dedicated to informing about the matter. 

The so-called Unhoused Residents Forum Subcommittee will coordinate with County agencies, non-profits, and community organizations working on this issue to host an educational forum to update the public on what measures are currently being taken and to consider further steps. 

“Our plan right now is to relocate those camping in the brush next to the library in what we call the Midtown site that is county property,” Gibson said. “And because it is county property and subject to some very tight restrictions, we’re able to mobilize some funds to work on moving folks to alternative shelter and providing them necessary services.”

There are legal complexities that come with people setting up camp on public property. In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court backed a lower court’s ruling (Martin v. Boise) in Boise, Idaho that homeless persons cannot be punished for sleeping outside on public property in the absence of adequate alternatives. 

County Public Works is taking the lead on the issue and working with a team of people from social services, the parks department, county libraries, California Fish and Wildlife public health, behavioral health, CAPSLO and community volunteers to determine how best to address the Los Osos situation.

“Over the last few weeks we’ve been working really on connecting people to services and that has been done a lot through our sheriff,” said County Deputy Director of Public Works Kate Ballantyne. 

The Midtown site is not the only area of concern locally or in the county at large, but the fact that it is county-owned property has helped in garnering resources. 

“We are tremendously concerned with everyone homeless and unsheltered,” Gibson said. “Last year I asked our Planning Services Oversight Council to establish a committee, and that committee has been working, and is now in the process of trying to figure out where the resources are to provide services and alternative shelter to every individual who’s homeless and in this county. The sad thing, the actually shameful thing, is that this county has an extraordinarily high percentage of homeless people who are in shelter. . . but right now, our focus is in dealing with the specifics of the Midtown site.”

LOCAC is calling people to be part of 7-member subcommittee that will work to develop an informational public forum. The group will be comprised of two people from local non profit/community/service organizations and two people who are interested in the topic along with three members of LOCAC. 

Applicant qualifications:
• Interested and informed on the subject. 
• Willing to work cooperatively with other members and other viewpoints. 
• Able to devote about 2 hours per week for meetings beginning in late October and continuing until early December. 

“Preference will be given to individuals who may’ represent more than one perspective or group regarding the ‘Homelessness’ issue in Los Osos,” the website states. 

For the full guidelines, go to LOCAC.info. Applications should be sent to info@locac.com by October 15.

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